Walking in Religion or walking in Christ.

"As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him... beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him..." (Colossians 2:6,8,9a) 

The Believer's life is a life that is lived IN and trusting IN CHRIST, if we are living in and trusting in religion we are not living or trusting in Christ thus, we need to question if we really are a Believer in Christ. Jesus did not come to establish a religion called Christianity, but to establish a personal love relationship with people. A Believer is a branch that grows out of the Vine and continually produces abundant fruit of the vine. The community of the redeemed is the gathering together of all individual branches into one Vineyard (see John 15). The community of the redeemed is supposed to be a living phenomenon, an observable reality, not a religious philosophy or set of teachings.

As we first received the Lord Jesus, so we are to continue to walk in the Lord Jesus. Salvation is the gateway to receiving Christ. Christ is the Gate, but walking in Him as we have received Him is the Path. Our journey along this Path is a relational process with God. The Gate is the way we enter....the Path is for walking.

Many people are using religion as the gate and the observance of religious rules and regulations as the path and the business of this religiosity has removed the focus God's way to religion's way. God's way is intimacy between Christ and Believers, in religion the intimacy is between a denomination and people. People are busy doing the do's and not doing the dont's that are considered indispensable to denominational doctrines and faith. But the wonder and amazement of God's grace and love is neither experienced or shared. It is lost to serving religion.

Everything God has done, is doing, and will do is aimed at bringing us deeper into Christ, to finish what He began in us when we first received Him. God is the One Who brings us through the Gate, and God is the One Who leads us along the Path. Everything God has done, is doing, and will do has the same purpose, and that purpose explains everything you have been through, everything you are going through, and everything you will go through and it all benefits His community of the redeemed to manifest Christ to the community of humanity.

Jesus is the ONE from Whom all things in God are initiated, and Jesus is the ONE unto Whom all things of God find their purpose, their meaning, and their reason for being. Everything begins in Christ, and everything ends in Christ. He is the Beginning and the End. What religion fails to see that He is also EVERYTHING BETWEEN the BEGINNING and the END!

Real spiritual growth occurs when we realize that God has only one goal for us, and that is, the full, mature, complete, and experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. To the extent that we discard "things" including religion as our focus and become focused wholly on Christ, to that extent we will make progress as His community of the redeemed.

Believers should walk in the Lord Jesus as they received Him. We must not allow anything to keep us from growing up into Him. Spiritual growth in the life of a Believer is determined by the measure of the increase of Christ and the decrease of Self: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). It is not a question of gifts, knowledge, years of experience, or power. It is not a question of offices, positions or seminarian graduates. If by the end of the day there is less of me and more of Jesus then I am growing. Otherwise I am not. Jesus must become greater and greater in my life, and I must become lesser and lesser. This is the journey.

Along this relational journey in knowing Christ as all in all there are many pitfalls, snares, hindrances, and detours. Thus, Paul says we are to be on our guard and let no man spoil us. In this context, the word "spoil" means, "to destroy and strip of one's possessions; to deprive of something valuable by force." Every spiritual blessing is found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Each Believer has an incredible fullness and completeness in the Person of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Gift of God, it is precious, valuable, and the treasure of great worth.

How then can we be spoiled? According to Paul we are spoiled "through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments (elements) of the world, and not after Christ." It matters not if the philosophy is good, right, morally excellent, and praiseworthy. It matters not how well intentioned, meaningful, or helpful the tradition may be, or how important it is to society as a whole. If none of these things are "after Christ", that is, if they are not of Him, through Him, and unto Him, then they are worthless insofar as God's purpose and plan for the community of the redeemed is concerned and must be discarded as the focus of our attention.

This is what Paul alludes to in Philippians 3. Paul represents the very best that religion, philosophy, and tradition has to offer...education, gravity, intelligence, doctrine, zeal, religious service, and so on. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (v. 7,8). To be able to sweep aside all religious upbringing, moral philosophy, and tradition with one wave of the hand and consider it refuse is to know Jesus experientially as Enough. This is what it means to be decreased. God's Purpose for all believers is to be Christ manifesting, and everything is working to bring us to this final conclusion: "not I, but Christ" (Galatians 2:20).

The apostolic letters that make up a significant portion of the New Testament, more than anything else, seek to redirect the focus of the saints back onto Christ and away from a myriad of religious observances, religious traditions and rituals seeking to rob them of their time, energy, attention, focus, and spiritual devotion. These distractions were abundant in Paul's day. The people became entangled in many things. The whole controversy of Jews and Gentiles; to be circumcised, or not to be circumcised; to marry, or to remain single; to keep the Sabbath, or not to keep the Sabbath; which foods to eat, and which foods not to eat; whether one should follow Peter, or Paul, or Apollos; to speak in tongues, or not to speak in tongues; how men should behave, and how women should behave; what about this, and what about that. On and on it went, and on and on the distractions go today.

You see, it is not more of The Lord we need, since we are already complete in Christ...we just need less of everything else so that Christ is our focus. There are many things that spoil, hinder, distract, and lead us away from the simplicity of an abiding relationship with Jesus. Many of them are religiously spiritual. The spirit of Antichrist is not necessarily seen in something that is obviously satanic or demonic. Instead, the spirit of Antichrist is revealed in anything that seeks to deceive us by taking our eyes off of Christ...it is anti-Christ, against Christ, antithetical to the great Purpose of God.

How easy it is for us to become distracted into something less than Christ! Are we centered on Christ? Is Jesus our obsession? Is He our focus? Or have we set our sights on something other than Him, including religion? 

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